Archive for the ‘Accessibility’ Category

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has again designated September 2013 as Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. This fits in nicely with the nationally recognized month, and will hopefully serve to educate, inform and advocate for all those people living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

One of my personal goals of SCI Awareness Month is to help people in general understand what spinal cord injuries really mean. Here’s a quote that sums it up:

“I don’t like it that media shows only “inspirational” people.  I want people to know what happens when there aren’t any accessible parking places left.  I want them to know about pressure sore issues, catheters, bowel concerns, pain, medications, the average income, assistance needed—the whole dark side.  I don’t want their pity.  I want them educated.  Only then can they understand the need for ADA compliance, rehab availability and medical research.”   —  Karen Miner, C4, Roseville, California

While there does seem to be more media coverage lately about SCI, and that is a good thing, (hopefully we contribute to that as well), there is a need for people to understand what the daily challenges are for a person with SCI. The things the able-bodied population (including me) take for granted every day. With our clients and interactions with family members, we hear what the realities are every single day. With persistence, determination and a will to move forward, people deal with and overcome these daily challenges, but as an outsider, we have no idea…….

The obvious challenges are physical mobility and lack of accessibility in still so many public places. Transportation challenges are high on the list: not being able to drive, affording an accessible vehicle, relying on drivers, even getting a vehicle repaired. All can disrupt a person’s schedule for days, even weeks. Usually the unspoken topic is bowel and bladder issues. When a daily routine of bowel movements is disrupted by any number of causes (diet, medication, anxiety, physical ailments or other unknown assailants) a person’s self confidence, dignity, and emotional well being are attacked along with schedule changes and missing work, school and exercise. When bowel and bladder accidents happen either at home or in public, even those who figure out ways of dealing with it can become frustrated, angry and upset.

Any little thing can trigger a downward spiral. Sometimes a person’s emotional state is so fragile, a “simple” disruption is anything but. I can list many more challenges that none of us really see when we see someone who uses a wheelchair. Please know they exist; just be aware. That’s one thing I hope SCI Awareness Month can help accomplish.

Thanks for reading! Cynthia

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Hello everyone,

Push to Walk has partnered with Helen Hayes Hospital in many ways over the last several years, and we are grateful to work with them in our joint mission of improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. They have a brand new “Smart Apartment” which incorporates a variety of cool technologies to improve independence. Check out the link below and attend their upcoming reception to see it for yourself! The RSVP date is TODAY!

Helen Hayes Hospital, Route 9W, West Haverstraw, NY

Thursday, April 18 from 5-7:30 PM

Join them for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, hors d’oeuvres and guided tours of the Smart Apartment.

Experience how the sound of a voice, the power of touch, the press of a button and the blink of an eye can inspire independence.

RSVP by April 12 by calling 845-786-4114 or email kurtzm@helenhayeshosp.org.

Check out this link for more information: http://www.hhhfoundation.net/smart-apartment/

Enjoy the weekend!




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Happy Wednesday!

We are in the final countdown of days to Christmas, and perhaps some of you are planning to travel around the holidays. Air travel IS possible for people who use wheelchairs, and I would encourage you to not shy away from flying places that you might want to go to. Whether to visit family or friends, take a vacation or even a business trip, some advance planning and preparation are key to a succesful and enjoyable experience.

First, make sure you specify your needs when making your initial plans with the airline.

Second, allow PLENTY of time for all parts of the process: arrive early and allow extra time for going through security and getting to the gate. If you need assistance curbside, let the airline personnel know what you need. Once you’re at the gate, make sure the gate agents know you need an aisle chair or assistance. You’ll probably be the first passenger to board, so be ready!

Third, make sure you take all removable parts of your wheelchair onto the plane with you, and your seating cushion if you will use that on the plane. Make sure your chair is tagged and marked properly for any special care that needs to be taken. This is especially important for power chairs.

Fourth, always allow for delays! Make sure you have extra supplies for cathing and know how you will handle a situation if it arises. Delays are inevitable these days (or so it seems!), so being prepared is essential.

Finally, when you arrive at your destination, check your chair throughly to make sure it is not damaged, all parts are accounted for and it is safe to use. Don’t transfer into it until you are sure it is safe! If it is damaged, take pictures and document what has happened, and file a claim.

Air travel can be troublesome for everyone to some extent, and with added challenges of accessibility, accomodations, wheelchairs and extra supplies needed, you do need to plan accordingly if you have a disability of any sort that requires special attention. There was a story in the news recently about a 12 year old girl who uses a wheelchair being treated unfairly by the TSA. It happens, and it’s awful. My son was, I believe, unfairly targeted when flying out of Denver airport several years ago, and the commotion they caused and the way he was treated probably violated his rights as a person and a passenger. It’s a difficult situation, though, and while you may not deserve the treatment the TSA seems intent on imposing on you, it’s a very helpless feeling to be at their mercy. Try to document anything that seems ufair, and get names and badge numbers for follow-up later on.

I hope you enjoy traveling and go many wonderful places! Using a wheelchair may present additional challenges, but I hope they don’t prevent you from going anywhere you want to go!

A recent edition of Life in Action (Sept-Oct 2012) has some wonderful information on various travel activities and tips. Check it out!   http://www.spinalcord.org/getting-there/

Happy and safe travels! Cynthia

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Happy Friday! And congratulations to our NJ Devils for getting past the first round of the playoffs, for the first time in way too many years. Go Devils!!!

When my two children, Darren and Arianne, were younger, I dreamed about going away for several weeks in the summer and traveling in an RV to see the U.S. After a considerable amout of nagging, prodding and practically begging, my husband agreed. In the summer of 2000, we rented an RV and headed cross country. It would turn out to be 17 days and a lot of fun, for most of us – varying amounts of fun at varying times would probably be an apt description! All in all, it was a great trip and provided us with great experiences, family bonding and wonderful memories. I (of course!) loved it the most! I’d like to see more of the U.S. in an RV – hopefully we will do that in the future! To plan a trip like that (for me, anyway; lots of people can just go and do, which is fine) requires a fair amount of research and planning ahead. For people with disabilities and who use wheelchairs, the need to be prepared is multiplied many times over, and requires due diligence in some cases to make sure that traveling will be enjoyable, fun and not stressful. A Push to Walk client recently returned from a cruise with her family and had a wonderful time!

Here’s a website that will help all of us if we ever want to travel around the country in an RV. This site has so much valuable information and it is so well organized and sorted. I love it! Check it out! http://rollinginarv-wheelchairtraveling.blogspot.com/p/our-motorhome.html. The author presents the information in a very well-written format, as a wheelchair user and as a seasoned traveler.

There are lots of resources out there on accessible travel and helping people have fun while vacationing. Don’t let using a wheelchair limit the possibilities. If you want to go somewhere in particular or take a specific type of vacation – cruise, all inclusive resort, etc. – there are resources out there to help! Another great place for info is United Spinal’s “Able to Travel” program (www.abletotravel.org). Take advantage of the info, get out there and GO!!  Happy travels!!!


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At this past weekend’s Sports and Recreation Expo held at Helen Hayes Hospital, there were a number of vendors there with wheelchairs, vehicles, sports equipment and other information and resources. It was a great combination of products and services for people with spinal cord injuries and lots of other disabilities. Some of the vendors provide equipment that would be considered “medically necessary” like wheelchairs and lift systems if a person cannot transfer him or herself. I consider driving a neccessity, but that is my own opinion. In the eyes of the funders or government systems, it is quite difficult and time consuming to get funds to either purchase a vehicle or have it modified with hand controls and other adaptive equipment. Then there’s all the “extra” kinds of equipment that are definitely not covered by insurance or other programs, but have the potential of providing exercise, recreation and social activities. That’s what I’ll focus on here today. (I do acknowledge and understand that there are many other financial challenges as well. I do not mean to neglect them, but just focusing on one area today.)

One of our Push to Walk clients attended the Expo and saw some really cool stuff. After mentioning how he’d love to have one of the things he saw, he quickly acknowledged that the price tag was beyond his means. First, it seems like “stuff” for people with disabilities is just so darn expensive. As soon as something is described as helping people with disabilities, the price tag goes up considerably. For people that are handy and creative, they often build or rig something up for themselves that works just as good if not better than a product they could buy. This happens way too often, and it upsets me. I don’t know the business of manufacturing and distribution, but I do know equipment is very expensive and customer service is lacking in many, many companies who provide products to people with disabilities.

For sports and recreation equipment, there are a few resources that are worth checking out for individuals who want to buy their own stuff. I know there are requirements and guidelines for applying, but with persistence and some hard work, you might just find funding to help you. Check out the Travis Roy Foundation (www.travisroyfoundation.org), the Kelly Brush Foundation (www.kellybrushfoundation.org), The Challenged Athletes Foundation (www.challengedathletesfoundation.org) and Freedom on Wings of Sport (www.wingsofsport.com). Maybe one of these will fit your needs and you can apply for funding. Also HelpHOPELive, formerly NTAF (www.helphopelive.org) can help you set up a fundraising plan to assist you in your efforts.

While these approaches may be time consuming and tricky to navigate, it might be worthwhile in the long run. Check them out so you can go out there and have some fun. Let me know how it goes. I’ll be waiting to hear from you!


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Hi Everyone,

Today, I thought I would pass along two items that might be of interest to you:

Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, NY is hosting Gary Karp to speak on Wednesday, April 4 (tomorrow!) at 5:30 pm. This is a FREE presentation! Gary is an internationally recognized public speaker, corporate trainer, facilitator, author and editor. He has been living – fully – with a T12 spinal cord injury since 1973 when he was injured in a fall from a tree at the age of 18.  Gary’s presentation will offer up insights and lessons on the nature of how we cope with trauma, the cultural assumptions that influence our view of disability, radical changes in mobility and public access since his injury, and much, much more. You can get more details at www.helenhayeshospital.org. I think this will be a great program. I will be going – hope to see you there!

Another program also offered tomorrow, Wednesday, April 4 is a FREE online webinar hosted by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). It will start at 1:30 pm and last for 75 minutes. You can register using this link: https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=registration.jsp&eventid=415134&sessionid=1&key=D36B986C4EDF55780AD867C904920B91&partnerref=editordistro&sourcepage=register

The EEOC Speaks: Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADAAA
Take advantage of this unique opportunity to get answers to your reasonable accommodation questions directly from EEOC Commissioners. During this webinar, Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic will discuss an employer’s duty to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended by the ADAAA. In addition to addressing questions submitted in advance of the session, they will cover:

  • Who is entitled to a reasonable accommodation?
  • When must an employer engage in the interactive process?
  • Employer obligations regarding:
    • job restructuring
    • modified work schedules or locations
    • leave
    • reassignment
  • What is required for an employer to show undue hardship?

I hope you take advantage of one or both of these programs! Please pass information along to anyone who might be interested. Thanks!



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I am happy to say we have our first Flip Video Camera back with some footage! Yay! We will be posting some of the clips soon, but I wanted to mention how tricky it really is for people who use wheelchairs to get around, especially in a city. In the suburbs, it is mostly getting in and out of cars, parking spaces, and accessible entrances that prove difficult. In the city, it’s sidewalks, curb cuts, potholes, vehicles and more.

One of our Push to Walk clients filmed an ice cream truck blocking a curb cut and making it difficult to cross the street in his wheelchair. While most of us like to see the ice cream truck – brings to mind summer fun, warm temperatures and a good mood – one blocking accessibility is frustrating and upsetting. Sure, it’s a little thing for those of us who are able-bodied, but when you’re using a wheelchair, even partially blocking an accessible curb cut can bring big problems.

If we could all have a little (or a lot!) more regard for what people using wheelchairs have to deal with on a regular basis, it might make a BIG difference. Think about it next time you are out and about, and see what improvements you can make in your own behavior or help someone else understand how they can help, too. Ignorance is not an excuse for bad behavior, but sometimes it is up to us to point it out and provide some education.

If you have any stories to add to this topic, please let me know. I’d love to share them!


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Happy Monday! I hope you all had a good weekend!

A Push to Walk client passed along a newspaper story about a man and his company who renovate upscale Manhattan homes, and now he has added accessible and universal design to the services he provides. This would seem a natural area for Martin Watters to focus on – he uses a wheelchair himself. The company is called ADA Lifestyles of New York. Check them out! (http://www.wattersconstruction.com)

This article reminds me of how many people and families affected by spinal cord injury, paralysis and an array of other disabilities have “normal” homes that become nearly impossible to navigate once a wheelchair is needed. Our own home, a ranch up until a year before Darren’s injury, but now with two stories and lots of steps, had to be changed quite a bit to accomodate Darren’s wheelchair. Outside of providing primary care to a newly injured family member, this is one of the most important, expensive and stressful areas that need to be dealt with.

Our own town of Kinnelon, New Jersey was extremely helpful in getting the renovation project moved along very quickly. The Mayor and Council, our architect, builder and sub-contractors all pulled together to get our project started and completed in record time. But I know many others who are not as fortunate. It is often the cost of such projects that is prohibitive (especially on top of all the other costs if it’s a sudden spinal cord injury), the lack of resources to aid in the design, the workers to do the job. When I hear of people waiting weeks and months just to get a ramp so they can get in and out of their houses safely and easily, it breaks my heart.

In this newspaper article from The Journal News (www.lohud.com), it references how Rockland County, NY has adopted a law with design standards for accessibility and recommends a speedier process for town permit applications for modifications. Sounds like some good progress, and perhaps other counties will follow their lead. I certainly hope so!

I know of a local agency in New Jersey, DAWN (www.dawncil.org) who received funds from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to help people offset costs of certain home modifications in certain counties of New Jersey. I hope there are other resources out there, too, that can help. If you know of any, please pass them along and I’ll be sure to include them in a future post and on our website in the links section (www.pushtowalknj.org).

For now, let’s all think about how we can help make our homes more accessible to visitors in wheelchairs and the little things we can do to help people feel welcome. And if there’s any way we can assist others to find the resources they need to make their own homes more accessible and functional, let’s put our heads together and help! This is an area where people working together can truly make a difference to someone with a disability of any kind.


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